I had been to FareStart several times a few years ago, but it had kind of fallen off my radar. Then FareStart contacted me about attending a food bloggers dinner where we’d have dinner, learn more about the program and get a tour of the facility. How could I refuse?
The only other food blogger that was able to attend was Hillel of Tasting Menu, so we had a small table. Zach and I arrived a little early and check out the place. It’s definitely not fancy, but it’s also comfortable in its own way. The room was abuzz and PACKED with patrons.
After we were seated, someone came over to our table to give us more information. FareStart is a program that teaches homeless adults and teens job training so that they can enter the foodservice industry. An impressive 80% are employed immediately upon graduation—and most of them stay employed with the same company for at least a year, which is quite good considering there’s so much turnover in the foodservice industry.
What impressed me the most was the organization’s diversity. They offer lunch service, two cafes (one in the Downtown library and one in Rainer Valley), Thursday night guest chef dinners, and catering services. They also provide meals to low income childcare centers, Head Start programs, homeless shelters and senior centers through their Contract Meals program. Whew… that’s a lot!
And they do it all in the smallest of spaces. When they took us on a tour of the facilities, I couldn’t believe they put out over 2,500 meals every day. The catering area was about the size of my hallway. The main kitchen was a large room, but there was barely enough space to fit two people shoulder to shoulder in the narrow walkways between the islands and stoves.
By the time we finished our tour and sat down at our table, our first course had arrived. The guest chef of the night was Heath Swanson of McCormick and Schmick’s Harborside and the set menu was Butter Lettuce Salad with Jicama, Cedar-Plank Salmon with Berry Beurre, Roasted Potatoes, and Asparagus, finishing off with a Berry Shortcake.
So here’s the thing. The food wasn’t incredible, but it was good—and a great price at $19.95 for a three course meal. But it just felt good eating there and it felt like a very worthwhile thing to spend money on. So I’ve already requested my reservations for the upcoming events:
June 16th: Chef Scott Staples of Restaurant ZoÃ« (oh, how I love thee, even more)
Also, Chef Eddie Montoya of Ovio Bistro (5/5/2005) and Philip Mihalski of Nell’s Restaurant (5/12/2005) look great. Actually the whole guest chef line-up looks great. Sign up on the guest chef email list and they’ll even let you know when new chefs are added to the line-up!